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A little lost as what to do...

Colorado Girl's picture

I think my 13 year old stepdaughter is becoming the less than "golden" child.

Her mom is in full force stressed mode because she is getting married in a month(to her boyfriend of less than a year ).

SD13 is the maid of honor and is on the brink of refusing to go to the wedding at this point.

She told her future stepdad, "you are not a parent to me or my sisters..." after an incident on Thursday where she had been babysitting her little sisters all day and granted her 11 year old sister permission to stay at her friends house for pizza. Mom's boyfriend had just gotten home and was upset that SD13 didn't ask him if it was okay. An argument ensued between the two of them about the necessity of such a thing. The boyfriend proceeded to call SD's mom and SD13 got in trouble for being disrespectful.

I'm not a fan of the boyfriend, but I also think that SD13 could be pushing her boundaries simply because she is being told to respect someone who she barely knows. Because her mom is disordered mom is in the mix, it really makes me question the reality of the situation.

SD11 and SD13 both had softball games on Saturday. BM and her boyfriend went to SD11's earlier game and SD13 got in trouble again for not properly greeting the boyfriend. BM and her boyfriend then proceeded to "boycott" SD13's later game. BM then called my husband to tell him that he needs to talk to his daughter about her attitude. My husband politely declined and said this situation was hers to deal with. He wouldn't call her if there was a stepmom issue and expect her to handle it. Mom also let him know that she would not be attending SD13 and SD11's birthday bash we were throwing for them on Sunday because her boyfriend "had the day off and they really could use some quality time together".

SD13 told me that night for the umpteenth time in her life that her mom only cares about whatever boyfriend she has at any given time. I validated her hurt and then posed the question, "so now what?".

It was an honest question.

She didn't know. She wants to move out but doesn't want to leave her sisters. So I asked again, "then what can you do?"

She didn't know.

I want to tell her to make the best of it and accept mom in all her glory. We can't change her mom. I know it hurts and I don't want her to hurt. I'm also really angry at her mom right now. My SD13 is a really good kid and I don't think it's fair to assign her all the blame in the bad relationship that seems to be happening between the boyfriend and her. Perhaps I am far too biased, I absolutely adore my SD and I think this recent flavor of the month is a real douche bag. (Pardon me while I purge ) I think it's drama all the way around and so silly what is going on. My husband got a call today(yet again!) that my SD13 is such a little brat lately and that she was in trouble (now!) for not paying attention to her mom's friend's son who was at the birthday party yesterday. My husband said that she seriously needs to stop calling him over such things. He isn't seeing this monumental bad attitude that she is witnessing and that SD13 was polite and kind to all her guests at the birthday party which included over 25 girls and 4 boys. He also let her know that SD13 equally ignored all 4 boys which also included SD13's boyfriend and her stepbrothers (my two sons).

I don't know what advice to give. I want her to have a voice.. even if her mom isn't listening, doesn't mean the rest of us aren't. She said that she feels like she can't win. I have to admit that there is truth in that statement.

I don't really know how to help her other than what I always do. I don't know how to support her mom when she's acting like a two year old and boycotting events and birthday parties. I can see why SD13 wants to boycott her wedding... only seems fair, right?

I also know that any guidance I give her is perhaps coming from an angry place which isn't good for either of us. I'm not sure what to say or do at this point. I know what I want to do... but I don't feel like it's necessarily what should be done.

I appreciate any feedback.


stepoff's picture

From what you write, it sounds like SD13 is getting the short end of the stick.

"She said that she feels like she can't win."

Sounds about right. Sounds like her BM and BM's BF are picking on too many little things. Pick your battles, that's what I think. So SD11 ate pizza at a friends' house. Big deal. She ate dinner, didn't she? BM and her BF want to miss the birthday party for some alone time? What? They're parents for goodness sake. Alone time can come some other time. I just don't understand why a parent would EVER want to miss a party for their children.

I don't know what to say. However, I think that SD13 boycotting the wedding is a bad idea. She should show up and be happy for them. She will show more decorum than her BM and BF by doing that.

Colorado Girl's picture

You're right about the wedding... and the reasons behind the birthday party.

I have to be honest the air of peace that surrounded the party though. I'm really glad they opted out. It was so relaxing knowing that BM wasn't coming.

As far as SD, this isn't the first time that her mom has triangulated between her daughter and a boyfriend. I feel like I'm losing my objectivity when it comes to this though. I want to tell SD to treat them just as she's being treated...

I know that's not the route to take. I hate that the world and all the people in it are constantly expected to take the high road while this grown woman throws temper tantrums when she isn't getting her way.

Today, I am very frustrated and not understanding of much.


mermaid33's picture

Maybe you should have your husband talk to her. I now that if it is the SM that the kids are complaining about the BM's are the first to step in so just return the favor. LOL

mermaid33's picture

I think it sounds like you are doing a great job. Sometimes just being the one to listen can make a world of diff. I know it must be a hard time for you. As step moms we love our step kids and dont want to see them mistreated by anyone. I hope that you daghter can figure it out and things get better for her.

Colorado Girl's picture

Really good advice, vicks.

...and you're absolutely right.

My tolerance levels are at a low point. She misses out on games all the time. She'll pick a blind date over a band recital.

It's nothing new.

So perhaps it is just my own frustration driving the temper tantrum I feel like throwing.

Jsmom's picture

Can't she come live with you full time? Would your husband request it. Sounds like she is unhappy there. Maybe she needs a break from Mom and her drama.

Colorado Girl's picture

I would love that. I also don't want to encourage her to think that it's the only solution to all her problems...

LMR120's picture

Has your SD tried to talk to her mom about how she feels? I of course dont know BM but maybe she could ask her mom if they could set aside some time to talk about things. It does sound to me though that any issues BM BF has with SD that he tells her about it and then she in turn gets into arguments with SD. Seems to me that BM needs to tell BF to back off a little bit and to stop nit picking at everything SD does. As far as your role goes it sounds to me like you are doing what you can. Although instead of saying "what can you do" you can help her come up with solutuions and then when those dont work you can just be an ear for her. Good luck!

Colorado Girl's picture

The "That sounds tough, what can you do?" is a DBT technique in that I validate her hurt and place it back in her lap in order for her to learn some coping skills when her parent is mentally ill.

Talking to her mom seems to be moot in that mom has the emotional maturity of a 5 year old. She doesn't really quite "get it".

BM marches to the beat of her own drum, I'm just trying to teach my stepdaughter some dance steps. Smile

Stick's picture

CG - you and I have had similar issues in trying to get SD's to accept mom's poor behavior.

I think that Vickmeister is right in telling you to validate why SD wants to boycott the wedding, but that it is inappropriate behavior - for a child or an adult. That's the type of advice that SD's counselor over here was giving us. I also agree with Mermaid that just having you there... just having you listen and understand makes up for more than you realize.

I guess all you can do is to NOT stick up for or gloss over BM's behavior. Without bashing BM, call it what it is.

She's hurting and she just sounds like she needs your love and "ear" and to be told that she's really okay. I think she needs now, more than ever, for you to validate that she's not the one with the problem, BM is. And from the sounds of it, she gets that, but it's nice to hear it. Also, she is a doll in being concerned for her siblings.

One thing that DH over here sometimes says to SD is that as she is growing up, she learns all kinds of lessons from us. And not just lessons that we want her to learn. Sometimes she learns things and thinks... "I will never do this to my kid". For example, DH grew up in a smoking home, and knew that he would never smoke around his children. So maybe you can help her see that she is growing and learning from this.

You can help SD get through this just by being your thought-provoking self. And I truly believe that it may not be a bad thing to let SD see your anger on this. Because she is probably very angry too, and not expressing it. If you express it for her.. or with her... it may help her get over it.

I wish I could take her hurt away. I wish you could. Or DH could. I at least hope that you can lessen it.

Hugs girl...

Sita Tara's picture

I would write a Sita type response, but Stick summed it up.

I had a similar conversation with my SD the other day about stuff that's going on. I told her that she only has a little time left before she gets to make her own big decisions and that then she will appreciate how it's not always easy to discern the right way to go. Til then, her parents may not make the decisions she wishes them to, or show her their love the way she wants them to, but they do still love her to the best of their ability. We all can only do that. I think she just wanted to be heard by a parent and I listened without judging which I always have when she's worked up with emotion. Sometimes that's the best that we have to offer them.

Colorado Girl's picture

Thanks Stick, my old friend.

I'm having a rough time of this. Sad

Thank you for letting me know it's okay to get mad... but there is a greater lesson to carry with me.

If we react based on our hurt and anger.. nothing good comes of it. I just sometimes feel like stomping my feet and announcing that I don't think this situation is very fair to my precious stepdaughter who has a right to be loved and respected... instead of the expectation of meeting the needs of a particularily needy mom.

I know you're right.

I just don't like it.

anabihibik's picture

This is a good opportunity for her to realize the adult impact of consequences on one's actions when the situation just sucks. Your SD is a very sweet kid, and at 13, to have to fully take in such a big picture requires a lot of maturity. Sometimes, we do just have to make the best of a bad situation and be the better persone because in the long run, that will make us feel better than doing something that is tit for tat that we think will make us feel better. This is a chance for her to let her character shine. I like Vickie's response and Stick's response.

anabihibik's picture

Oh, and then, you can tell SD 13 that I have some Itialian New York family that could come for a visit. Wink

Colorado Girl's picture

Thanks anabihibik...

She does have it in her to be the bigger person and do what is right.

Her mom will never have the capacity to understand just how lucky she is to have such a terrific kiddo.

Colorado Girl's picture

She's given the task of looking after her siblings and when she makes a decision, she gets into trouble for it. If adults are going to hand children adult roles, how can the adults get angry when the children make mistakes.

Because the adults are merely children masquerading around in their authority. They are both obnoxious and self righteous with only the best interests of themselves in mind. Much like a child would be simply because it is their instinct to be that way. I forget sometimes that she simply does not have the capability to function above this level of maturity.

You are right though. There is a feeling of powerlessness. What can I do to help give her some of that power back??

CaliStepMomma's picture

Wow. Same things happen all the time with my SD12. We had kids last week. At lessons (which BM always comes to, even during our time), SS11 wanted to do a karate move on me. So I let him. As soon as BM saw this was happening she left and stood in the parking lot talking to other parents. Didn't even say goodbye to kids or even wave as we got in our car and kids were waving and saying goodbye to her. Later that same week, we were at a school concert, SD12 finished and walked up and gave me a hug, then she went up to BM, who was sitting two rows behind us, talked to her for a bit between performances, then came back and sat with us through her brother's performance. After her brother's performance, but before the end of concert, SS9, who had been sitting with BM, came to sit with us. SD12 wanted to talk to her mom between performances, so she got up, but SS9 told her that mom had left. SD12 said, kinda to herself, obviously sorta 'venting,' "OK. I guess I won't even say goodbye to my own mother who can't make it a priority to talk to me. Fine." She seemed upset. I didn't want to bring it up there, so just let it go. It's obvious that the kids are being boycotted for not giving BM enough attention. And, the saddest thing is, the kids know it.

Now, the solution, or at least, kinda solution. My old counselor gave me good advice for how to address stuff like this with SD. SD has expressed before that she has to do what mom wants or mom gets mad. The problem with this is that SD gets really confused as to what her wants really are, who she is as a person, which is so important at this age. So, my counselor said to explain to her that we always have different motivations for doing things: some things we do because we want to do them, some things we do because we have to do them, and some things we do because we want to do them because someone else wants us to do them. All these things can blend. So, for instance, the healthiest approach for your SD would be to say that it is her choice to go to her mom's wedding, and that perhaps she could go, not because she necessarily wants to, but because she wants to because her mom wants her to. But, if she doesn't want to do something nice for her mom, she is free to take the stance as well, though she may just have to go to her mom's wedding because her mom might make her. She needs to learn to pick and choose what she will and won't do for her mom and she needs to understand that it's ok not to like what you are doing even if you have to do it. I think you validating her feelings and giving her the option to think about it for herself is great. In fact, it's the same thing my counselor advised me to do with SD.

BM is such a control freak and always has all these explantations for why the kids have to do what she wants. The kids spew them back out but you can tell they don't really agree with them. Some things we agree on, and I'll say that, some things I don't agree on and I'll gently point out the reasons I don't agree, and other things I strongly disagree on and will blatantly say that I disagree, like on not letting my SD do 'boy things.' My counselor said it is good for the kids to see that people disagree because that's life. The important thing is letting them hear all the options and then choose for themselves what they believe. Another important point is that they need to understand the rules at each house. If the rule is that SD has to act nicely to Step Dad, then that's the rule. They don't have to believe in the rule, but they have to follow it.

Where this gets a little tricky is in things like, what clothes to wear, and whether to cut your hair or not. My SD is currently in a bit of a battle over what her mom wants her to wear to graduation and what she wants to wear. Also, SD wanted to grow her hair out and wear it up in one of my hair things that matched her dress, but she just got her hair cut because BM said it would be better. When SD is with us, we let her wear and do what she wants as long as its appropriate (like, no sweat pants to a fancy dinner), even if BM has already picked out her outfit. Yes, BM will pick out her 12 year old SD's outfit for an event she is going to with us, like...Easter at MY family's house - weird! SD sometimes choose to wear what BM tells her to, and sometimes wears whatever she wants. We used to get in trouble when she didn't wear what BM sent for her at our house, but since BM can't tell us what to do when the kids are with us, now the kids get in trouble. It sucks for them, but they can't be forever ruled by a tyrant.

Wow, I've rambled...